Do you feel out of control? Find out how to regain control in any relationship!
Do you ever feel out of control in your relationships? Like there is nothing else you can possibly do to get what you want! "I can’t change my partner, so … can I put up with him/her, or should I just leave?"
I have been aware of this "feeling," but I faced it like never before in a session with a client recently … and here’s how we got around it. (This will work for you too!)
This woman was depressed! And I’m talking the exhausting and draining "crying for hours until you fall asleep" type of depression. Happiness was not near for her.
I met with her the morning after she was overcome by depression. She had continued crying through breakfast, getting ready and coming to my office. Her face was red and puffy, and her eyes looked hopeless. She claimed that she didn’t know why she was crying, but when I asked her to guess, it was the ongoing feeling of being alone.
She never felt connected to her mother and rebelled in a BIG way. She had a "perfect," apple of mom’s eye sister, who after 40+ years of being an adult, still gets everything her way. She had a "bad apple" brother, who she actually related to as kids, but he has settled on isolation as an adult, and now feels virtually zero connection to him.
Her husband was never there to support and protect her. When he was around, he was out of control with both his emotions and drinking.
She had two children, who received lots of consideration from their mother, as she didn’t want to “be like her mom.” Sure, she lost her temper at times, but the greater message was, “I am here for you.” She feels very connected to her kids, but grieves their individual struggles. Often she can’t be present for them, because she blames herself for their problems.
And then more feeling ALONE!
Crying often means grieving the perceived loss of something. And it made sense … she is mourning the loss of connection and love … from her mother, husband and now her children.
I had introduced the concept of the "curious scientist" the visit before. The curious scientist is an archetype, which is a symbolic representation of a person with certain qualities and attributes. The attributes, which are exceptionally beneficial to happiness, include noticing the results of the experiment (our experiment is life!) … changing the variables of the experiment if the result was not optimal … and then feeling curious and even excited as the experiment unfolds.
By focusing on this concept, she noticed an increase in energy and decrease in pain … in fact, she sent an excited email about her change.
And then, a couple days later, the severe depression with hours of crying overcame her excitement.
She was excited to change variables and see what the new result might be … but … as she faced her current results, she could not find a variable within her control! And, if you have no control over variables, there is no curiosity or excitement for life … no happiness!
As you probably understand, it’s not that she had NO control over variables … but she ran head first into her inability to see her control.
For example, years earlier, her husband was an alcoholic. He could not control his drinking, nor control his actions or emotions when he was drinking. She "knew" she didn’t have any control over variables, so her variable was "hope" that he would change. And at this point in her life, she was running low on hope.
But, is it true? Even with an alcoholic husband, could she have found variables to get her to excitement?
One of the most famous curious scientists was Thomas Edison. It is storied that he attempted the "light bulb" over a thousand times.
He acknowledged the non-preference of not being able to read his text books after dark. He sought out resources on the topic of making light. He used the variables he discovered, and wondered what else he could change … and then applied some of his own creative ideas. This created excitement … but … nope … still dark. So he changed more variables, and more, and more … until he CREATED LIGHT where there was darkness!
It is very dark when "my husband is an alcoholic." It may feel helpless. But is that true? Is it true that you can’t have a better life until your partner is willing to change his alcoholism? Is it true that you have no power over this "disease?"
I shared with this patient that I love beer and drink some almost daily. Am I an alcoholic? My family loves me, I improve people’s lives almost every day, I grow as a person daily and more people appreciate my contribution on an ongoing basis. Does that sound like an alcoholic?
I will be the first to admit that alcohol is a medication for my anxiety. I am anxious about judgment, offending people, and even being "good enough" which really goes back to judgment and offending (or upsetting) people. In other words, if I am not "good enough" as a doctor, spouse, or father, the recipients of my "services" could be upset.
Alcohol eases that anxiety. That sounds like a good resource, right? A variable that increases my ease, comfort and happiness!? But what is the difference between me and an alcoholic? That’s an easy one right? Control! I have made agreements with myself that alcohol MUST NOT affect my energy, health, productivity, connection, etc.
Maybe the attributes we assign to an alcoholic by labeling them as an alcoholic, have nothing to do with the alcohol. What if the attributes of an alcoholic, such as out of control, emotional, abusive, neglectful, isolating, etc ... are really the attributes of the person who uses alcohol to escape their anxiety or depression, but cannot see other variables to continue to grow and connect?
My point is that this woman gave up her power, her choices and her variables, because she decided that he couldn’t change, because he was an "alcoholic." There was nothing she could do about it … or was there?
In every situation, there are variables you DON’T control … and there are variables you DO control. Maybe she couldn’t control his alcohol consumption … but what if she had emphasized her ability to ask for agreements. (And this is just one of many variables we always control!)
She could have requested a change in behavior, without demanding a change in "alcoholism." And just maybe, if she eventually requested an agreement he was able to keep, he would notice that he does have control over his own power and acceptance and maybe … he would drink less.
He was exercising control over the one variable that helped him feel better … he was in control of pulling up to the liquor store and buying another bottle. It might have even been effective at reducing his anxiety, but it wasn’t enough … it was like he stopped at Edison’s first attempt, which led to more darkness, and kept putting the same variables together for the same result … day … after day … after day.
She was doing the same thing. "I hope he changes. Dang, he didn’t!" "I hope he changes! Dang, he didn’t!" Day after day … after day … years ... until finally she gave up.
Her current depression was centered around her daughter. Recently married, her daughter is facing the challenges of partnership, and struggling with her own anger and lack of variables. (And remember, we all start with one variable … crying). Mom (my patient) wants to help … well, let’s be honest … she wants to fix her daughters pain … but … no variables.
Back to my office on the "super depressed" day, when she cried herself all the way to my office, I knew she needed one thing … variables. I was using some acupressure techniques while focusing her on resourcefulness (variables) and she started sobbing. I knew she was ignoring me and focusing on her lifetime of lacking variables. I interrupted this pattern by telling her to stop crying. I told her that she MAY NOT let her mother or ex-husband wreck another day of her life. I told her that we are done grieving. The cure is variables and I insist you find yours. You Must Find Your Control!
Do you see why I had to rather abruptly interrupt the pattern? What an insane hamster wheel! Round and round we go … same stupid wheel … "I have no variables … depression … I have no control … depression!" Life is too dang short to spend time on that wheel … and the solution is focusing on what you DO CONTROL!
Her daughter's struggle belongs to her daughter. Nobody had a perfect parent that prepared them for every possible challenge. No child has gathered the resources to float through life on a cloud of ease. My patient’s mother gifted her daughter with consideration and acceptance. And in that environment, developed authenticity and passion.
Now, as a result of that perfect / imperfect energy exchange, her daughter has a passion for getting her way. She runs her own business, works her own schedule, and now, with a partner, must learn how to get what she wants with someone else. And like a child who hasn’t developed the resources to get what she wants from others, gets upset and hurt when it’s not going her way!
I shared the Energy of Empowerment with my patient. This is the energy that protects you from other people’s drama and makes you more attractive to them, as you hold them accountable to rise above their challenges. Step one is to bring focus to the problem and to request resourcefulness. It’s as simple as this … "Wow, you looked really angry and upset … what are you going to do?" (SILENCE!)
In fact, I forbid her to help her daughter. I gave her specific scripting for what she could do. Empathy. Understanding. Connection. But NO help!
The result … with new variables and the freedom from the shackles of "fixing" her daughter … she felt amazing … no depression … and by simply listening and empathizing, her daughter thanked her for being so supportive. She also discovered that her daughter did have a plan … she was activating her own variables and resources! Now she can facilitate the problem solving by simply checking in … "How’s that going …what are you going to do next? Great, hope it helps!"
My patient believed she had no control over her experience … sending her into a deep dark depression. And then, by recognizing that she did have control … in this case by letting go of results and providing empathy … her depression was cured in a matter of hours.
The TRUTH is that we always have variables we control and variables we do not control. The TRUTH is that you can always choose to focus on variables you control, or variables you do not control. If you choose the latter, you may feel uncontrollable depression. If you choose the former, you may feel uncontrollable excitement.
Imagine that Edison longed for light to reach his books. The candles strained his eyes, causing headaches. So he checked his current resources …candles … and discovered that there is NO WAY to increase the brightness of the flame. So he grieves the loss of reading … or the daily headaches … and then the helplessness … The grieving never ends, because his happiness is dependent on the candle to produce more light, which it can’t.
We have light today because he focused on the variables he COULD control/change.
The variables that YOU can change in your relationship include … asking for agreements, empowering your partner, acquiring what you want and need, attracting what you want and need, and teaching your partner how to treat you.
These are the Five Energetic Needs with an abusive, alcoholic partner…
INQUIRE: Would you agree to drink in the den and away from the kids?
TEACH: I hear your voice … it is very loud … are you frustrated or upset about something? If you are frustrated or upset, I would prefer if you tell me what you want … you can say, "I don’t think the house is clean enough … or I want the kids to listen to me … or I want you to be understanding on how stressed out I am …. would you be willing to do that?"
ACQUIRE: I’m taking the kids to the water park … we’d love to have you come.
ATTRACT: Oh my goodness … you should have seen Savannah go down the water slide … she was so terrified, yet she did it … I was so proud of her.
EMPOWER: You are rubbing your head and your eyes are red … it looks painful … what are you going to do about that?
Do you see the difference? You could use these approaches with an alcoholic, because you are energizing your power, your choice and your control. You might need to energize the control of timing … I wouldn’t make these requests to someone when they are intoxicated or angry. But I would in the morning when they are likely feeling remorse and vulnerability.
Nobody prefers feeling out of control. Not the alcoholic and not the wife of an alcoholic. Discover your control, by focusing on the variables you DO control. Even if it takes research and experimentation, like Edison…
If you would like more tips and strategies to take control and increase your happiness, sign up for my FREE Newsletter, "Healing Me!"
Dr. Stone practices Integrated Natural Medicine using a Five Element approach to identify your negative patterns of body and spirit. His practice is located in beautiful Asheville, NC, with people driving 3+ hours for his hands on care. If you are in the vicinity and want to see Dr. Stone to increase your health and happiness, or are not in the region and want to see "health coaching" options, visit his practice here.